Two major temblors jolted the western coastline of Sumatra Island in Indonesia on Wednesday, sparking tsunami alert across Asia and Africa.
The first temblor, a magnitude-8.5 quake, was epicentered about 10 kilometers southwest of Simeulue Island at 3:38 p.m., while the second, an magnitude-8.1 quake, about 360 kilometers from Simeulue at 5:43 p.m., as reported by Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency. The agency issued a tsunami alert for Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Lampung and Bengkulu.
In Banda Aceh, people remembered the monstrous 2004 tsunami that struck the province, taking to pedicabs, cars, motorcycles and bicycles to get as far away from the coast as possible.
Television stations were broadcasting images of traffic jams in Aceh. One station showed people flocking to a mosque, while inside, a woman raised her hands in prayer. Others looked nervously through the mosque’s pillars to the street.
The agency reported that the sea level rose by only 80 centimeters in Meulaboh and by 20 centimeters in Sabang, Aceh. Officials later announced that the quakes did not cause a tsunami and told people to return home. Residents were relieved that their tsunami fears did not materialize.
Although no fatalities or significant damage was reported, the quakes did cause power and telecommunications disruptions. In North Sumatra, for example, damage to the Belawan power plant caused blackouts in several areas as state power company PLN reported losing about 230 Megawatts of capacity at the plant.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that he had instructed National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) chief Syamsul Maarif to personally monitor the situation in Aceh.
More than 170,000 Indonesian were killed or listed as missing after a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off Aceh triggers a tsunami. The death toll, including those killed in other countries along the Indian Ocean topped 230,000.
After the 2004 earthquake, Indonesia has seen a series of temblors. In March 2005, a magnitude 8.6 quake off Sumatra’s west coast killed 1,300 people, mostly in Nias Island. Earthquake rocked Yogyakarta in Central Java, killing 5,000 and destroying 150,000 homes in May 2006. Two months later, a tsunami following a magnitude 7.7 quake in West Java killed more than 500.
In 2007, two strong earthquakes killed 72 people and injured dozens in Padang, West Sumatra. A magnitude 7 quake off Java killed more than 60 and damaged 86,000 homes on Sept. 2, 2009. Twenty eight days later a magnitude 7.6 quake rocked Padang, again, killing more than 1,100.
In Oct. 2010, Mount Merapi near Yogyakarta began a month-long eruption, killing more than 130 people, while a magnitude 7.5 off-shore quake triggered a tsunami that hit Mentawai Islands, killing 445 people and flattened several villages and a surf resort.